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Venezuela's Maduro declares Fridays a holiday to save energy

By Andrew V. Pestano
Venezuela's Maduro declares Fridays a holiday to save energy
This image shows how a drought and accused government inefficiency has led the Guri hydroelectric plant in Venezuela's Bolívar state, which supplies the country with 63 percent of hydroelectric power, to a near-critical level. At proper capacity, water in the image should reach the silver concrete marker on the left side, a few feet below the road. Photo courtesy of Venezuela's Ministry of People's Power for Electricity.

CARACAS, Venezuela, April 7 (UPI) -- In order to deal with a crippling energy shortage, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has decreed all Fridays in April and May will be holidays for public workers.

Venezuela depends on hydroelectric power for about 60 percent of energy needs, El Universal reported, but an ongoing drought has critically deteriorated the hydroelectric infrastructure output. Critics of Maduro's government say government inefficiency, lack of maintenance and lack of investment have exacerbated the problem. Maduro's administration has blamed a the "El Niño" weather pattern for making things worse.

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"We're going to have long weekends ... to not affect production," Maduro said Wednesday during a televised address, adding that he wants to save the country from "painful rationing."

The Venezuelan opposition has criticized the four-day work week measure as dangerous amid an economic recession. Details on the measure were expected to be released late Thursday. It is unclear how schools, private businesses, and other economic and social sectors of Venezuela will be affected.

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"To solve the electrical chaos, the Miraflores [Venezuela's presidential palace] genius shoots off nonsense non-labor days," National Assembly Parliament president Henry Ramos Allup said in a statement.

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Maduro also said the price of electricity should increase. He did not say when the price hike should occur or by how much it should rise -- instead calling for public debate on the issue.

The Guri hydroelectric plant in Venezuela's Bolívar state, which supplies the country with 63 percent of its hydroelectric power, is less than 10 feet from dipping to a critically low water level.

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Maduro also called on large electricity consumers, such as malls and manufacturing companies, to generate about 20 percent of their own electricity.

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